Three really quick first impressions of the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket:
1) UConn's draw
There's no such thing as an easy draw - unless you are 2010 Duke - so really you have to hope the matchups work out semi-well. There's really not many teams who can't beat UConn (and vice versa), so it's a matter of avoiding the nightmare matchups as long as possible.
Not in UConn's region: Ohio State, Kansas, Syracuse, Wisconsin, G*orge M*son (just because), Kentucky, Notre Dame, Louisville.
All the Huskies would have to do to make an unlikely run to the Final Four is escape a death trap of a second-round game against either Cincinnati or Missouri, (probably) take out two the top six teams in the KenPom ratings (San Diego State, the Texas/Duke winner) and maybe play a 32-2 team two hours from their campus in the Sweet 16.
No biggie. But hey, you don't get a bye to the Final Four - unless you are 2010 Duke - so there's no use complaining. If we're good enough, we'll take care of business, and if we're not, we won't. That simple.
And I wish I could take credit for it, but h/t to a Boneyard poster in this thread for the following:
1999 -> #1 seed -> beat Duke in national title game
2004 -> #2 seed -> beat Duke in national semifinals
2011 -> #3 seed -> Duke will be waiting in the Elite Eight
More bracket thoughts, after the jump:
2) If the Big East is for real, this is the bracket where they'll prove it
Eleven teams got in, and while the committee did pull a couple head-scratchers and potentially match up Big East teams twice in the second round (potentially, UConn-Cincinnati and Syracuse-Marquette), the rest of the draw is about as good as you can hope. Only one Big East team (Villanova) could possibly face a 1 or a 2 seed before the Sweet 16; the top two Big East seeds (Pitt and Notre Dame) have reasonable draws, as do Louisville, St. John's and Georgetown.
The ones who got a little bit screwed: Marquette and Syracuse (both of whom may have play Xavier in Ohio, or each other), West Virginia (potential second rounder with Kentucky...eek), Cincinnati (Missouri-UConn is easily the toughest 6-seed draw).
Also, we're all Villanova fans for the next four days, but that goes without saying.
3) This is what a wide-open tournament looks like
I could see any of the one seeds (save Kansas) losing in the second round; I could see them all advancing to the Final Four. I could see three 12 seeds advancing to the second round, or two 13 seeds. I could see UConn losing in the first round with sluggish legs; I can see us doing some damage.
Whoever wins your bracket pool will be lucky.
But with that in mind, here are some (non-UConn) games I personally am looking forward to this weekend:
Kentucky-Princeton; Michigan-Tennessee; Arizona-Memphis; Vanderbilt-Richmond; Wisconsin-Belmont; Kansas State-Utah State; UCLA-Michigan State; St. John's-Gonzaga
Kentucky-West Virginia; Syracuse-Xavier; Duke-Tennessee; Notre Dame-Texas A&M; Pitt-Butler; Florida-UCLA; BYU-St. John's